Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Billy, It's Time: A Review

Michael Buckley's Billy, It's Time is an apocalyptic novella (15,455 word count) set in the late stages of a slowly, but completely collapsing economy.  The story starts in Georgia, moves on to Nashville Tennessee and eventually ends in the mountains of Western North Carolina near the Cherokee lands.  There is a sequel that continues the story, but the novella stands reasonably well on its own.

Michael Buckley lives in the Philippines and notes at he has worked (presumably as a civilian contractor of some sort) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The story blurb from the author's website:
Billy, has been out of work for a long time. Hunger drives them to pack up and move.  Unemployment is at 50 percent, governments can no longer pay their police departments.  Criminals have taken the law into their own hands. 
They form a brotherhood with the Cherokee.  That is the only thing that can save them.
That pretty much sums up the story.  The book is an odd mix of dialog and third person narration told from a first person point of view.   The author doesn't understand that changing the tense of the delivery numerous times within a very short section of the story is off putting.  There is a fair amount of fighting and such, but the typical scene would go something like: [They attack us and kill two of our dogs, and then we attack them and kill all six of them].

There preparations consist of gathering up a group of people in Nashville, and then going around stealing, and in one case murdering an owner of a auto sales place.  They are not particularly happy about this, they are not complete sociopaths, but they swing back and forth from being somewhat thuggish (in Nashville), to all nice and respectful (in Cherokee).

When they get to North Carolina, the first thing they build is a clubhouse (I kid you not) for their group, and some sort of large photovoltaic-battery array with the electricians they have on hand.  They then install plumbing without there ever being a discussion of where the water is coming from.

So did I like it?  Well, I liked the fact that it was short.  I am not usually fussy about typos and occasional grammatical errors, but the story has the delivery level of a clever 9 year old.  The bare bones of the story would make for a descent story line, and the complete lack of sophistication of the protagonists (a survival story full of a bunch of dummies) also makes for an interesting change of pace.  So while I wouldn't recommend the story, it reads so quickly that is not nearly as painful of a read as some out there.

We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high.  Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting.  Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation.  Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.

Realism is tough.  The story is so bare bones that there is not a lot to work with.  Once they get to North Carolina, the preparation of the camp with its club house is mind spinningly off the wall.  But the story before that seems a reasonable rendition of a couple of fools wandering around a collapsing economy running into other down-and-out clueless folks.  We'll call it a 4.

Readability is an interesting proposition.  It's a novella, and it moves along pretty fast.  It is not too hard to follow the story.  At the same time, it is the most grammatically fouled up story I have ever read.  So what would normally be a 5 or 6 becomes a 4.

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